Published: Friday, May 10, 2013

Stalemate lingers over garment village

The delay in acquiring a mere five acres of land has set back the possession of 500 acres to set up the much-needed garment village in Munshiganj, officials said.
It has been nearly eight years since the government took up the plan, after the collapse of Spectrum Garment Factory killed 74 workers in 2005.
“Around five acres in the project area are private lands which owners do not want to sell. The dispute may further delay land acquisition,” said a senior official of the industries ministry.
Most of the land in the project is owned by the government. Also, the private owners are ready to sell their lands. But some baulked.
The garment village project has recently been handed from the industries ministry over to Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) under Prime Minister’s Office, to expedite the process.
“The project is no longer with us and the industries ministry has nothing to do with it,” said Dilip Kumar Saha, joint secretary of the ministry.
Uncertainty over electricity and gas connections also delayed project implementation.
“We can see some developments in two months, provided the government ensures gas and electricity there,” said Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
“If we get an assurance from the government on energy supply, we’ll start land acquisition soon,” said Islam. He said apparel makers are ready to spend Tk 1,500 crore for land.
The relocation of garment factories has been a topic for years. It gets renewed attention when there is an accident. The government adopted the idea in 2005 but there was no visible progress until November 2012, when the Tazreen fire killed 112 workers.
“A lot of time has been spent on the mode of project implementation. Some say it should be a public private partnership project while another group says it should be a government one,” said a senior Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) official.
BSCIC was initially the authority for implementing the project.
The planning commission also sent the project proposal back twice, recommending a PPP project. But Commerce Minister GM Quader and Secretary Mahbub Ahmed opposed the planning commission several times; they argued that a PPP would be a complex system and would delay the project further.
Nearly three months ago, BEZA was given the authority to execute it as a government project. The government will allocate 500 acres of land to the apparel makers who will acquire it by giving a certain amount of money determined by the government. Around 1,000 plots would be built in the village.
A growing number of accidents in the apparel factories have put the country’s image at risk. The collapse of Rana Plaza in Savar that housed five apparel factories highlights safety or lack of it, at work.
Buyers and consumers have been questioning workers’ safety.
Exporters said the project will immensely help modernise the garment industries as well as reduce traffic in the city once completed.
“The delay has frustrated us. Any further delay will dampen the industry’s prospects in Bangladesh, as competing countries are establishing many such palli (parks) to attract global buyers,” said Abdus Salam Murshedy, former president of BGMEA.

sajjad@thedailystar.net